Saturday, November 20, 2010

Addi Lace Clicks Review (for you, Jillian)

A few weeks ago my long-awaited trip to Stitches East went horribly awry. I consoled myself by spending the last of my birthday money on a set of Addi Lace Clicks interchangable needles. I'd wanted these for quite awhile, having fallen in love with the Addi's Lace Circulars during my shawl-a-thon last spring.

Sorry this is lacking in pictures but I wanted to get my impressions down while I was thinking about them. Below my thoughts I'll list my impressions in bullet points including details like tip length, needle material, join mechanism and join smoothness.

My initial reaction was Ooooooooooooooooooh. How lovely! How pretty! The case is streamlined and relatively well-designed, with magnetic closures and a zipper pocket for any small bits you may need. I quickly sat down to cast on the Montego Bay scarf in some gorgeous Blue Heron Rayon Metallic (in Day Lily) and my heart fell. I had heard that Addi had encountered difficulty achieving a smooth join when producing the tips using same bronze finish as found in the Addi Lace Circular needles but I hadn't thought about how that would impact the feel of the needles or the slide of the yarn on them.

The Lace Clicks are made using the same material as the Addi Turbos while retaining the finer, more elongated tip of the Lace Circulars. One of the things I loved about the Addi Lace Circs was that it had a gentle grip - fantastic for slippery lace yarn. The Lace Clicks are super slick. After the disappointment of missing Stitches, I just burst into tears. I've always avoided metal needles because I have trouble managing slick yarn when my hands are fumbly.

Time went on and I used them here and there for smaller swatching projects ... I began to enjoy the slickness of the yarn on the needles. Holy moses they are fast. I picked up my Lace Circs to knit a pair of gingerless mitts and ... hmmmm ... suddenly they were too grippy!  Interesting.

Mitts finished, I decided to cast on a matching scarf. I cast on using sz 10 Addi Lace Clicks and within two rows my hands began to ACHE. I realized the problem ... the needle tips are too short for comfort. They need to be shorter to accomodate the 16inch cables in the Clicks kit but OW ... my hands cramped all up. I quickly switched it over to my Knit Picks Harmony interchangables and the ache eased.

So here is the nitty gritty of it all...

Addi Lace Clicks -
~  fantastic fine point, as sharp as Harmony needles but more elongated. Better for lace knitting

~ slick speedy material. They are lacking the grip of the Addi Lace Circs, so if you are in love with that these might not be the needles for you.

~ INCREDIBLE join mechanism. If you have a KitchenAid Mixer you'll recognize the connection. It's very similar to the connection that KitchenAid uses to lock the mixing blade onto the mixer. Absolutely fantastic design, super secure. No more needle tips unscrewing mid-row and dropping a billion stitches (I've had this occur with the Harmony tips and have run into alot of frustration when I misplace the tightening tool required to tighten the Harmony tips).

~ pretty smooth join. The folks who sold the set to me gushed ridiculously about the join but it was not as impressive as I thought it would be. It's most likely the best join possible using the secure locking mechanism and that particular needle material, but I think it's about comprable to the KP Harmony join. In fact, the Harmony join seems a bit better at times.

~ bendy cords in a wide variety of lengths, printed with the length. It's very handy to have the short lengths of cords but quite honestly I would rather have longer tips for comfort. They fit nicely into the zipper pocket on the back of the case but they seem to hold their loopiness a bit too much if they stay rolled up in there. Harmony cables are equally flexible and seem to resist getting too loopy if stored rolled up (a big plus when using long cables for Magic Loop knitting) but I do love that the Addi's have the length printed on them.

~ size printed on the needle tip. Holy cow I love this. Loooooooooooove. Harmony tips don't have this.

So that said, I like the Addi Lace Clicks, but don't *love* them. I'm absolutely not interested in rehoming my Harmony needles any time soon but the Addis have enough positives going for them that I am going to hang onto them as well.

Hope this gives some feedback to those who are interested!

Just noting: I have no affiliation with any of the companies mentioned above.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Easy Turkey Dinner with some of the Trimmings ;) Kind of...

** Disclaimer - Yes, I am aware that stuffing that is not cooked INSIDE the bird is supposed to be called dressing. But this is my blog ... here it is and will always be stuffing ;)

I have a small problem with stuffing. I eat it like candy. I mean look at this. LOOK at this.

I had a lonely bag of Pepperidge Farm Cornbread stuffing languishing in a cabinet and turkey breast cutlets in the freezer. Mmmmm... or so I thought.

As I myself languished in bed after a horrible week, I began lusting after stuffing. Mmmm. With gravy. Ooooooh sweet mother, I had all the ingredients on hand to make this EASY. What LUCK! Ha.

So here is what I had in the fridge/freezer/pantry...
a bucket of prechopped celery & onions (it was on sale)
1lb frozen turkey cutlets (uh oh)
packets of Simply Organic turkey gravy
boxes of organic stock in a multitude of varieties (and some in the freezer)
that big lonely bag of cornbread stuffing
Penzey's Bavarian Seasoning*

*This is my precious. They recommend it for pork, lamb or veal but the ingredients really lend themselves to poultry, IMHO. This is easy enough to mix up at home: crushed brown mustard, rosemary, garlic, thyme, bayleaf & sage. But at $2.85 for a small jar (I was in the store so no shipping!) I figured I could try it and save myself the effort of grinding up all that stuff ... which I would never remember to do. It SMELLS LIKE THANKSGIVING.

Anywho, I mixed up some stock with a packet of turkey gravy and dumped that, a cup of chopped celery and onions and the turkey into my smaller crockpot. I sprinkled it all liberally with My Precious and set it on high.

I wasn't too worried about the quantity of meat b/c the girls never touch turkey and dh & I could fill up the extra space with stuffing.

So around dinner time I took out said stuffing and melted the butter, sauteed more chopped onions and celery, added stock to the pan and, yes, sprinkled in more of My Precious.

Time to add the stuffing to it all and bake as directed ... (insert screeching halt noise here)...

... it expired in July.

Well really, how bad could it be? It's just bread and seasonings. Let's check the ingredients ... uh-oh. Soybean oil. My pantry (aka the small cabinet that backs up to my neighbor's tropically hot apartment) is NOTORIOUS for making things with oil in them go off.

I took a sniff. The pantry had done it again.

Well crap.

Then dilemna #2 ... the kids running into the kitchen crowing, Oooooh mom, that smells delicious!! Now to share barely one pound of turkey four ways. NO way to do that without side dishes.

I did some quick googling and referencing of my America's Test Kitchen cookbook and I decided to wing homemade stuffing. You can see where we start to slide away from easy here.

I slid half a loaf of wheat bread, slice by slice onto one rack of the already preheated 350 degree oven, followed by about 8 hamburger rolls on the other rack. The book said 30-60m at 300F to dry out the bread and to then allow it to cool. After about 10 minutes I jacked it to 350 and pulled out half a hamburger roll for each kiddo. I slathered it with butter and garlic powder, plated some of the turkey and added some raw brocolli. Dinner for the kiddos. Ta da.

They would never eat the stuffing anyway and needed to eat NOW.

When the bread was dry I debated the next few steps. The cookbook said butter the casserole but I was adding a ton of butter anyway. I skipped it - turned out pretty well that way but I think it would have added a tasty crispy layer around the edges. Now to cool or not cool? I was thisclose to turkey and stuffing. Not cool. I crumbled all the bread into one inch chunks and poured the butter/broth/veggie mix I had originally made for the prepacked stuffing all over it. Huh. Doesn't seem very wet. Ok, lid on, in it goes ... maybe the steam will help?

Thirty minutes later, not so much.

I cut more butter into the skillet, dump in the last of the onion/celery mix and more of My Precious. Sautee, add broth, bring to a simmer, mix in with all the cooked stuffing, re-lid and back in the oven for another 10min.

Now I bet if I had let it cook longer it would have been uniformly moist but I like my stuffing to have crunchy bits.

I portioned out the rest of the turkey, large helpings of stuffing and topped them all with the gravy that they turkey had cooked in (which probly should have been strained to look pretty but those wee bits of turkey and veg were soooooo good).

It was all so good.

Life lessons:
Buy more turkey.
Stuffing isn't hard to make from scratch.
One packet of gravy for this recipe is NOT enough. I almost licked the crockpot.
I cannot be without Penzey's Bavarian Seasoning. Ever.
The beautiful stunning gorgeous covered Le Creuset 4qt stoneware casserole I bought (on double super sale ... with free shipping) with my birthday money this year was worth every penny.

So after all that, here is my recipe for posterity (aka, me wanting to make it again and not remembering how).

1lb thin sliced turkey breast cutlets (next time thick cut is fine - or a whole breast, 2-3lbs)
1 packet turkey gravy (next time, at least 2)
3 cups chopped onions and celery (total - more next time)
Seasonings as you like
3 cups stock (mooooore)
1/2 loaf wheat bread and 8 hamburger rolls or the equivalent
1 stick butter

Mix turkey packet with appropriate amount of liquid noted on packet - I used stock. Add gravy, 1 cup cut veg, turkey to crockpot. Season liberally & set to cook.

Dry out your bread bits as mentioned above. Set aside.

45 minutes before ready to eat...
Preheat oven to 350F
Butter casserole. If you don't have a lidded one, plan to cover with aluminum foil.
Crumble dry bread into casserole. If you like a more crumby stuffing (less large hunks) roll the dried bread btwn your hands for a finer texture. I personally like a combo. In this recipe, larger chunks tend to stay more crispy.

Saute remaining veg and seasonings in melted butter until fragrant and onions begin to soften. Add stock to veg and heat through til. lightly simmering. Pour over bread in casserole and mix gently til well covered.
Bake 30m covered. If it's too dry, fix as I did above. If its too moist, uncover, rasie oven temp to 400F and cook 10 more minutes.
If I was really going for authentic I would crack open some of my homemade cranapple sauce from the pantry. Swoon....

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Pizza Chicken (veggie option at the end) ~ Welcome Back Cold Weather!

Disclaimer numero uno - this does not involve a crust in anyway.

Disclaimer part deux - my official apologies to the DiFazios and Patalanos in my heritage (and Gentiles by marriage) who I embarrass by using jarred sauce in this recipe. I'm exhausted. Apologies also for the use of mild cheddar. Just. Trust. Me.


Something about this cold brisk weather has me reaching for my big, heavy pieces of cookware. Crockpots, dutch ovens, thick high-walled iron skillets, my stoneware *** blissful sigh***

Today was a hogswart of a day (don't ask me ... I'm trying to hold off on the profanity here) and I have a brandy-new piece of stoneware to bake in (thank you Tina!!) so I found myself reaching way way back to pre-children memories for a comfort dish of epic proportions. But with minimal prep. Boo-yeah.

I'm not sure if the small monsters will eat this concoction. Frankly, my darling, I don't give a damn (does it count as profane if I'm quoting a cultural classic?). If they are hungry, they will take in calories. If not, they will eat eggs for breakfast.

So without further ado, my beloved Pizza Chicken... as with all my recipes, this is more a guideline. If you like hard and fast, sorry baby. Wrong blog. The amounts are what I used personally for two adults with hearty appetites and two chicken who exist on air and with the intent to have a ton of left overs. We ended up with a wee bit of leftovers. So. Dang. Good.

Pizza Chicken
2.5-3lbs of boneless breasts, pounded very thin or purchased "thinly sliced" (woot ... was on sale)
1 lg jar tomato sauce (I like Classico Four Cheese)
sliced pepperoni (optional)
a block of mozzarella
a bag of shredded mozzarella
shredded parmesan
shredded mild cheddar (huh? I know. Just trust me)
your favorite italian seasonings
sea or kosher salt, pepper, garlic powder (I like granulated garlic)

Needed: large skillet or fry pan, large casserole or baking dish with lid or tinfoil

Cut chicken into large medallions - like 2-3inches each. Dust both sides with salt, pepper and garlic powder and begin browning the medallions in batches in a large skillet over medium heat. Brown on each side. Chicken should be cooked all the way through or almost all the way through - it will NOT be in the oven long enough to cook through based on that alone.

While chicken is browning, cut some of the block of mozzarella into 1inch chunks and set aside. Cut pepperoni slices into quarters (scissors ROCK for this) and set aside.

Preheat oven for 425 F. (I started at 350 and it took forevaaaaaaaaaah so I upped the ante halfway through)

As chicken batches finish, lay a layer of chicken in the baking dish as you would lasagna noodles. Add a light layer of sauce, a light layer of pepperoni bits and scatter with mozzarella chunks (how much is totally up to you). Sprinkle lightly with parmesan.

Repeat until the last layer of chicken.

Now on TOP of all that, cover with a layer of shredded mozzarella, more shredded parmesan, some mild shredded cheddar (see? its only here folks) and your favorite italian seasonings. I like parsley, oregano, garlic powder, onion powder and black pepper.

Cover with your lid or tinfoil and put it in the oven for about 20 minutes. After first 15m, remove lid. When it is FULL on bubbling and all cheese on top has melted, and return to oven under broiler for as long as it takes to lightly brown the top. NOTE! Your cheese is already really hot so this will only take a minute or two. In my pathetic broiler that barely works it was almost too well-done after five minutes. I personally brown the life outta that bad boy.

This is really yummy over noodles but is even better by itself with some lightly steamed green beans as a side.

To meat or not to meat? -- dude, use whatever you want. You can substitute meatless sausage, portobello mushrooms, beef, pork. Knock your bobbie socks off.

Sauce -- this is actually REALLY fantastic with meat sauce, sausage sauce and pretty much any sauce you like.

Add-ins -- consider adding in anything you love on your pizza - veggies, olives, anchovies, you make the call baby

All that cheese -- so what do you do with the leftover cheese? Freeze it if you won't eat it. Chop the remainder of the block of mozzarella into one inch chunks and place in one layer in a gallon freezer bag. Freeze them laying flat and you can remove them as you need them.

Did you read this far? Can ya find the Lush jar in the picture? I even have them in my kitchen...